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Military intelligence chief: Russia obfuscating actual military spending

Putin during the Russian military's Zapad 2017 exercise.
Putin during the Russian military's Zapad 2017 exercise. Source: TASS/Scanpix

While Russia's nominal military spending decreased last year and is expected to see further reductions, the size of its federal budget for confidential items has actually grown, chief of the Military Intelligence Battalion of the Estonian Defence Forces, Col. Kaupo Rosin writes in the military's recently published annual review.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently published a study according to which Russia's defense spending shrank by roughly a fifth last year, the first reduction in 20 years. In the assessment of the institute, Russia's spending on its military will remain at the same level in the coming years, or even shrink further.

In the 2017 annual review of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), Col. Rosin writes that Russia's military spending is in fact greater than reported, with some positions hidden away in the federal budget.

Rosin confirmed SIPRI's forecast, pointing out that Russia's defense spending shrank last year compared to its record spending in 2015 and 2016 and amounted to some 3.037 trillion rubles (about €45.67 billion). But while the nominal defense spending is set to remain the same or shrink further over the next years, Russia's actual expenses on its military are higher, Rosin wrote.

"Firstly, this is only a reduction in public and nominal military expenditure. In the state budget of the Russian Federation, the share of classified military expenditure has grown with each year, and this tendency seems to persist. According to analysts at the publishing company Jane's, if the classified expenses of the budget are added to the public part, the spending on the armed forces and law enforcement agencies will increase by 260 million rubles compared to 2017 and will amount to a total of 5.096 trillion," Rosin wrote. 5.096 trillion rubles are roughly €67.22 billion, more than €20 billion more than officially allocated to the military in Russia's federal budget.

"Secondly, the government of the Russian Federation has the right, if necessary, to channel up to 10 percent of the total federal budget into financing the fields of defense and security," Rosin added: all that is needed is a government decision, there is no need to get the budget amended by Russia's parliament, the State Duma.

The conclusion, according to Rosin, is that Russia's spending on its military and security forces isn't shrinking, but actually increasing. Even though the country can't develop and modernize its forces as quickly as announced in previous development and procurement plans, this still means its military is growing. According to official data, it received altogether 2,055 new units of new or modernized equipment, Rosin wrote.

In terms of their total, Russia's military spending ranks fourth worldwide. The United States and China spend the most, Saudi Arabia has recently risen to the third position. Estonia's defense budget amounts to a total of €523.6 million for the year 2018, making up some 2.14 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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